V. I. Lenin

What Is To Be Done?


Trade-Unionist Politics And Social-Democratic Politics

We shall again begin by praising Rabocheye Dyelo. "Literature of Exposure and

the Proletarian Struggle" is the title Martynov gave the article on his

differences with Iskra published in Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10. He formulated the

substance of the differences as follows: "We cannot confine ourselves solely to

exposing the system that stands in its (the working-class party's) path of

development. We must also react to the immediate and current interests of the

proletariat.... Iskra . . . is in fact an organ of revolutionary opposition that

exposes the state of affairs in our country, particularly the political state of

affairs.... We, however, work and shall continue to work for the cause of the

working class in close organic contact with the proletarian struggle" (p. 63).

One cannot help being grateful to Martynov for this formula. It is of

outstanding general interest, because substantially it embraces not only our

disagreements with Rabocheye Dyelo, but the general disagreement between

ourselves and the Economists on the political struggle. We have shown that the

Economists do not altogether repudiate "politics", but that they are constantly

straying from the Social-Democratic to the trade-unionist conception of

politics. Martynov strays in precisely this way, and we shall therefore take his

views as a model of Economist error on this question. As we shall endeavour to

prove, neither the authors of the "Separate Supplement" to Rabochaya Mysl nor

the authors of the manifesto issued by the Self-Emancipation Group, nor the

authors of the Economist letter published in Iskra, No. 12, will have any right

to complain against this choice.

A. Political Agitation And Its Restriction By the Economists

Everyone knows that the economic [1] struggle of the Russian workers underwent

widespread development and consolidation simultaneously with the production of

"literature" exposing economic (factory and occupational) conditions. The

"leaflets" were devoted mainly to the exposure of the factory system, and very

soon a veritable passion for exposures was roused among the workers. As soon as

the workers realised that the Social-Democratic study circles desired to, and

could, supply them with a new kind of leaflet that told the whole truth about

their miserable existence, about their unbearably hard toil, and their lack of

rights, they began to send in, actually flood us with, correspondence from the

factories and workshops. This "exposure literature" created a tremendous

sensation, not only in the particular factory exposed in the given leaflet, but

in all the factories to which news of the, revealed facts spread. And since the

poverty and want among the workers in the various enterprises and in the various

trades are much the same, the "truth about the life of the workers" stirred

everyone. Even among the most backward workers, a veritable passion arose to

"get into print" -- a noble passion for this rudimentary form of war against the

whole of the present social system which is based upon robbery and oppression.

And in the overwhelming majority of cases these "leaflets" were in truth a

declaration of war, because the exposures served greatly to agitate the workers;

they evoked among them common demands for the removal of the most glaring

outrages and roused in them a readiness to support the demands with strikes.

Finally, the employers themselves were compelled to recognise the significance

of these leaflets as a declaration of war, so much so that in a large number of

cases they did not even wait for the outbreak of hostilities. As is always the

case, the mere publication of these exposures made them effective, and they

acquired the significance of a strong moral influence. On more than one

occasion, the mere appearance of a leaflet proved sufficient to secure the

satisfaction of all or part of the demands put forward. In a word, economic

(factory) exposures were and remain an important lever in the economic struggle.

And they will continue to retain this significance as long as there is

capitalism, which makes it necessary for the workers to defend themselves. Even

in the most advanced countries of Europe it can still be seen that the exposure

of abuses in some backward trade, or in some forgotten branch of domestic

industry, serves as a starting-point for the awakening of class-consciousness,

for the beginning of a trade union struggle, and for the spread of socialism.


The overwhelming majority of Russian Social-Democrats have of late been almost

entirely absorbed by this work of organising the exposure of factory conditions.

Suffice it to recall Rabochaya MysI to see the extent to which they have been

absorbed by it -- so much so, indeed, that they have lost sight of the fact that

this, taken by itself, is in essence still not Social-Democratic work, but

merely trade union work. As a matter of fact, the exposures merely dealt with

the relations between the workers in a given trade and their employers, and all

they achieved was that the sellers of labour power learned to sell their

"commodity" on better terms and to fight the purchasers over a purely commercial

deal. These exposures could have served (if properly utilised by an organisation

of revolutionaries) as a beginning and a component part of Social-Democratic

activity; but they could also have led (and, given a worshipful attitude towards

spontaneity, were bound to lead) to a "purely trade union" struggle and to a

non-Social-Democratic working-class movement. Social-Democracy leads the

struggle of the working class, not only for better terms for the sale of

labour-power, but for the abolition of the social system that compels the

propertyless to sell themselves to the rich. Social-Democracy represents the

working class, not in its relation to a given group of employers alone, but in

its relation to all classes of modern society and to the state as an organised

political force. Hence, it follows that not only must Social-Democrats not

confine themselves exclusively to the economic struggle, but that they must not

allow the organisation of economic exposures to become the predominant part of

their activities. We must take up actively the political education of the

working class and the development of its political consciousness. Now that Zarya

and Iskra have made the first attack upon Economism, "all are agreed" on this

(although some agree only in words, as we shall soon see).

The question arises, what should political education consist in? Can it be

confined to the propaganda of working-class hostility to the autocracy? Of

course not. It is not enough to explain to the workers that they are politically

oppressed (any more than it is to explain to them that their interests are

antagonistic to the interests of the employers). Agitation must be conducted

with regard to every concrete example of this oppression (as we have begun to

carry on agitation round concrete examples of economic oppression). Inasmuch as

this oppression affects the most diverse classes of society, inasmuch as it

manifests itself in the most varied spheres of life and activity -- vocational,

civic, personal, family, religious, scientific, etc., etc. -- is it not evident

that we shall not be fulfilling our task of developing the political

consciousness of the workers if we do not undertake the organisation of the

political exposure of the autocracy in all its aspects? In order to carry on

agitation round concrete instances of oppression, these instances must be

exposed (as it is necessary to expose factory abuses in order to carry on

economic agitation).

One might think this to be clear enough. It turns out, however, that it is only

in words that "all" are agreed on the need to develop political consciousness,

in all its aspects. It turns out that Rabocheye Dyelo, for example, far from

tackling the task of organising (or making a start in organising) comprehensive

political exposure, is even trying to drag Iskra, which has undertaken this

task, away from it. Listen to the following: "The political struggle of the

working class is merely [it is certainly not " merely"] the most developed,

wide, and effective form of economic struggle" (programme of Rabocheye Dyelo,

published in issue No. 1, p. 3). "The Social-Democrats are now confronted with

the task of lending the economic struggle itself, as far as possible, a

political character" (Martynov, Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 42). "The economic

struggle is the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into active

political struggle" (resolution adopted by the Conference of the Union Abroad

and "amendments" thereto, Two Conferences, pp. 11 and 17). As the reader will

observe, all these theses permeate Rabocheye Dyelo from its very first number to

the latest "Instructions to the Editors", and all of them evidently express a

single view regarding political agitation and struggle. Let us examine this view

from the standpoint of the opinion prevailing among all Economists, that

political agitation must follow economic agitation. Is it true that, in general,

[3] the economic struggle "is the most widely applicable means" of drawing the

masses into the political struggle? It is entirely untrue. Any and every

manifestation of police tyranny and autocratic outrage, not only in connection

with the economic struggle, is not one whit less "widely applicable" as a means

of "drawing in" the masses. The rural superintendents and the flogging of

peasants, the corruption of the officials and the police treatment of the

"common people" in the cities, the fight against the famine-stricken and the

suppression of the popular striving towards enlightenment and knowledge, the

extortion of taxes and the persecution of the religious sects, the humiliating

treatment of soldiers and the barrack methods in the treatment of the students

and liberal intellectuals -- do all these and a thousand other similar

manifestations of tyranny, though not directly connected with the "economic"

struggle, represent, in general, less "widely applicable" means and occasions

for political agitation and for drawing the masses into the political struggle?

The very opposite is true. Of the sum total of cases in which the workers suffer

(either on their own account or on account of those closely connected with them)

from tyranny, violence, and the lack of rights, undoubtedly only a small

minority represent cases of police tyranny in the trade union struggle as such.

Why then should we, beforehand, restrict the scope of political agitation by

declaring only one of the means to be "the most widely applicable", when

Social-Democrats must have, in addition, other, generally speaking, no less

"widely applicable" means?

In the dim and distant past (a full year ago! Rabocheye Dyelo wrote: "The masses

begin to understand immediate political demands after one strike, or at all

events, after several", " as soon as the government sets the police and

gendarmerie against them" [August (No. 7) 1900, p. 15]. This opportunist theory

of stages has now been rejected by the Union Abroad, which makes a concession to

us by declaring: "There is no need whatever to conduct political agitation right

from the beginning, exclusively on an economic basis" (Two Conferences, p. 11).

The Union's repudiation of part of its former errors will show the future

historian of Russian Social-Democracy better than any number of lengthy

arguments the depths to which our Economists have degraded socialism! But the

Union Abroad must be very naive indeed to imagine that the abandonment of one

form of restricting politics will induce us to agree to another form. Would it

not be more logical to say, in this case too, that the economic struggle should

be conducted on the widest possible basis, that it should always be utilised for

political agitation, but that "there is no need whatever" to regard the economic

struggle as the most widely applicable means of drawing the masses into active

political struggle?

The Union Abroad attaches significance to the fact that it has substituted the

phrase "most widely applicable means" for the phrase "the best means" contained

in one of the resolutions of the Fourth Congress of the Jewish Workers' Union

(Bund). We confess that we find it difficult to say which of these resolutions

is the better one. In our opinion they are both worse. Both the Union Abroad and

the Bund fall into the error (partly, perhaps unconsciously, under the influence

of tradition) of giving an Economist, trade-unionist interpretation to politics.

Whether this is done by employing the word "best" or the words "most widely

applicable" makes no essential difference whatever. Had the Union Abroad said

that "political agitation on an economic basis" is the most widely applied (not

"applicable") means, it would have been right in regard to a certain period in

the development of our Social-Democratic movement. It would have been right in

regard to the Economists and to many (if not the majority) of the practical

workers of 1898-1901; for these practical Economists applied political agitation

(to the extent that they applied it at all) almost exclusively on an economic

basis. Political agitation on such lines was recognised and, as we have seen,

even recommended by Rabochaya MysI and the Self-Emancipation Group. Rabocheye

Dyelo should have strongly condemned the fact that the useful work of economic

agitation was accompanied by the harmful restriction of the political struggle;

instead, it declares the means most widely applied (by the Economists) to be the

most widely applicable! It is not surprising that when we call these people

Economists, they can do nothing but pour every manner of abuse upon us; call us

"mystifiers", "disrupters", "papal nuncios", and "slanderers" [4] go complaining

to the whole world that we have mortally offended them; and declare almost on

oath that "not a single Social-Democratic organisation is now tinged with

Economism". [5] Oh, those evil, slanderous politicians! They must have

deliberately invented this Economism, out of sheer hatred of mankind, in order

mortally to offend other people.

What concrete, real meaning attaches to Martynov's words when he sets before

Social-Democracy the task of "lending the economic struggle itself a political

character"? The economic struggle is the collective struggle of the workers

against their employers for better terms in the sale of their labour-power, for

better living and working conditions. This struggle is necessarily a trade union

struggle, because working conditions differ greatly in different trades, and,

consequently, the struggle to improve them can only be conducted on the basis of

trade organisations (in the Western countries, through trade unions; in Russia,

through temporary trade associations and through leaflets, etc.). Lending "the

economic struggle itself a political character" means, therefore, striving to

secure satisfaction of these trade demands, the improvement of working

conditions in each separate trade by means of "legislative and administrative

measures" (as Martynov puts it on the ensuing page of his article, p. 43). This

is precisely what all workers' trade unions do and always have done. Read the

works of the soundly scientific (and "soundly" opportunist) Mr. and Mrs. Webb

and you will see that the British trade unions long ago recognised, and have

long been carrying out, the task of "lending the economic struggle itself a

political character"; they have long been fighting for the right to strike, for

the removal of all legal hindrances to the co-operative and trade union

movements, for laws to protect women and children, for the improvement of labour

conditions by means of health and factory legislation, etc.

Thus, the pompous phrase about "lending the economic struggle itself a political

character", which sounds so "terrifically" profound and revolutionary, serves as

a screen to conceal what is in fact the traditional striving to degrade

Social-Democratic politics to the level of trade union politics. Under the guise

of rectifying the onesidedness of Iskra, which, it is alleged, places "the

revolutionising of dogma higher than the revolutionising of life", [6] we are

presented with the struggle for economic reforms as if it were something

entirely new. In point of fact, the phrase "lending the economic struggle itself

a political character" means nothing more than the struggle for economic

reforms. Martynov himself might have come to this simple conclusion, had he

pondered over the significance of his own words. "Our Party," he says, training

his heaviest guns on Iskra, "could and should have presented concrete demands to

the government for legislative and administrative measures against economic

exploitation, unemployment, famine, etc." (Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, pp. 42-43).

Concrete demands for measures -- does not this mean demands for social reforms?

Again we ask the impartial reader: Are we slandering the Rabocheye Dyelo-ites

(may I be forgiven for this awkward, currently used designation!) by calling

them concealed Bernsteinians when, as their point of disagreement with Iskra,

they advance their thesis on the necessity of struggling for economic reforms?

Revolutionary Social-Democracy has always included the struggle for reforms as

part of its activities. But it utilises "economic" agitation for the purpose of

presenting to the government, not only demands for all sorts of measures, but

also (and primarily) the demand that it cease to be an autocratic government.

Moreover, it considers it its duty to present this demand to the government on

the basis, not of the economic struggle alone, but of all manifestations in

general of public and political life. In a word, it subordinates the struggle

for reforms, as the part to the whole, to the revolutionary struggle for freedom

and for socialism. Martynov, however, resuscitates the theory of stages in a new

form and strives to prescribe, as it were, an exclusively economic path of

development for the political struggle. By advancing at this moment, when the

revolutionary movement is on the upgrade, an alleged special "task" of

struggling for reforms, he is dragging the Party backwards and is playing into

the hands of both "Economist" and liberal opportunism.

To proceed. Shamefacedly hiding the struggle for reforms behind the pompous

thesis of "lending the economic struggle itself a political character", Martynov

advanced, as if it were a special point, exclusively economic (indeed,

exclusively factory) reforms. As to the reason for his doing that, we do not

know it. Carelessness, perhaps? Yet if he had in mind something else besides

"factory" reforms, then the whole of his thesis, which we have cited, loses all

sense. Perhaps he did it because he considers it possible and probable that the

government will make "concessions" only in the economic sphere? [7] If so, then

it is a strange delusion. Concessions are also possible and are made in the

sphere of legislation concerning flogging, passports, land redemption payments,

religious sects, the censorship, etc., etc. "Economic" concessions (or

pseudo-concessions) are, of course, the cheapest and most advantageous from the

government's point of view, because by these means it hopes to win the

confidence of the working masses. For this very reason, we Social-Democrats must

not under any circumstances or in any way whatever create grounds for the belief

(or the misunderstanding) that we attach greater value to economic reforms, or

that we regard them as being particularly important, etc. "Such demands," writes

Martynov, speaking of the concrete demands for legislative and administrative

measures referred to above, "would not be merely a hollow sound, because,

promising certain palpable results, they might be actively supported by the

working masses...." We are not Economists, oh no! We only cringe as slavishly

before the "palpableness" of concrete results as do the Bernsteins, the

Prokopoviches, the Struves, the R.M.s, and tutti quanti! We only wish to make it

understood (together with Nartsis Tuporylov) that all which "does not promise

palpable results" is merely a "hollow sound"! We are only trying to argue as if

the working masses were incapable (and had not already proved their

capabilities, notwithstanding those who ascribe their own philistinism to them)

of actively supporting every protest against the autocracy, even if it promises

absolutely no palpable results whatever!

Let us take, for example, the very "measures" for the relief of unemployment and

the famine that Martynov himself advances. Rabocheye Dyelo is engaged, judging

by what it has promised, in drawing up and elaborating a programme of "concrete

[in the form of bills?] demands for legislative and administrative measures",

"promising palpable results", while Iskra, which "constantly places the

revolutionising of dogma higher than the revolutionising of life", has tried to

explain the inseparable connection between unemployment and the whole capitalist

system, has given warning that "famine is coming", has exposed the police "fight

against the famine-stricken", and the outrageous "provisional penal servitude

regulations"; and Zarya has published a special reprint, in the form of an

agitational pamphlet, of a section of its "Review of Home Affairs", dealing with

the famine. [8] But good God! How "onesided" were these incorrigibly narrow and

orthodox doctrinaires, how deaf to the calls of "life itself"! Their articles

contained -- oh horror! -- not a single, can you imagine it? not a single

"concrete demand" "promising palpable results"! Poor doctrinaires! They ought to

be sent to Krichevsky and Martynov to be taught that tactics are a process of

growth, of that which grows, etc., and that the economic struggle itself should

be given a political character!

"In addition to its immediate revolutionary significance, the economic struggle

of the workers against the employers and the government ["economic struggle

against the government"!] has also this significance: it constantly brings home

to the workers the fact that they have no political rights" (Martynov, p. 44).

We quote this passage, not in order to repeat for the hundredth and thousandth

time what has been said above, but in order to express particular thanks to

Martynov for this excellent new formula: "the economic struggle of the workers

against the employers and the government". What a gem! With what inimitable

skill and mastery in eliminating all partial disagreements and shades of

differences among Economists this clear and concise proposition expresses the

quintessence of Economism, from summoning the workers "to the political

struggle, which they carry on in the general interest, for the improvement of

the conditions of all the workers", [9] continuing through the theory of stages,

and ending in the resolution of the Conference on the "most widely applicable",

etc. "Economic struggle against the government" is precisely trade-unionist

politics, which is still very far from being Social-Democratic politics.

B. How Martynov Rendered Plekhanov More Profound

"What a large number of Social-Democratic Lomonosovs have appeared among us

lately!"observed a comrade one day, having in mind the astonishing propensity of

many who are inclined toward Economism to, arrive, "necessarily, by their own

under standing", at great truths (e.g., that the economic struggle stimulates

the workers to ponder over their lack of rights) and in doing so to ignore, with

the supreme contempt of born geniuses, all that has been produced by the

antecedent development of revolutionary thought and of the revolutionary

movement. Lomonosov-Martynov is precisely such a born genius. We need but glance

at his article "Urgent Questions" to see how by "his own understanding" he

arrives at what was long ago said by Axelrod (of whom our Lomonosov, naturally,

says not a word); how, for instance, he is beginning to understand that we

cannot ignore the opposition of such or such strata of the bourgeoisie

(Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 9, pp. 61, 62, 71; compare this with Rabocheye Dyelo's

Reply to Axelrod, pp. 22, 23-24), etc. But alas, he is only "arriving" and is

only "beginning", not more than that, for so little has he understood Axelrod's

ideas, that hetalks about "the economic struggle against the employers and the

government". For three years (1898-1901) Rabocheye Dyelo has tried hard to

understand Axelrod, but has so far not understood him! Can one of the reasons be

that Social-Democracy, "like mankind", always sets itself only tasks that can be


But the Lomonosovs are distinguished not only by their ignorance of many things

(that would be but half misfortune!), but also by their unawareness of their own

ignorance. Now this is a real misfortune; and it is this misfortune that prompts

them without further ado to attempt to render Plekhanov "more profound".

"Much water," Lomonosov-Martynov says, "has flowed under the bridge since

Plekhanov wrote his book (Tasks of the Socialists in the Fight Against the

Famine in Russia). The Social-Democrats who for a decade led the economic

struggle of the working class ... have failed as yet to lay down a broad

theoretical basis for Party tactics. This question has now come to a head, and

if we should wish to lay down such a theoretical basis, we should certainly have

to deepen considerably the principles of tactics developed at one time by

Plekhanov.... Our present definition of the distinction between propaganda and

agitation would have to be different from Plekhanov's (Martynov has just quoted

PIekhanov's words: "A propagandist presents many ideas to one or a few persons;

an agitator presents only one or a few ideas, but he presents them to a mass of

people.") By propaganda we would understand the revolutionary explanation of the

present social system, entire or in its partial manifestations, whether that be

done in a form intelligible to individuals or to broad masses. By agitation, in

the strict sense of the word (sic!), we would understand the call upon the

masses to undertake definite, concrete actions and the promotion of the direct

revolutionary intervention of the proletariat in social life."

We congratulate Russian-and international-Social-Democracy on having found,

thanks to Martynov, a new terminology, more strict and more profound. Hitherto

we thought (with Plekhanov, and with all the leaders of the international

working class movement) that the propagandist, dealing with, say, the question

of unemployment, must explain the capitalistic nature of crises, the cause of

their inevitability in modern society, the necessity for the transformation of

this society into a socialist society, etc. In a word, he must present "many

ideas", so many, indeed, that they will be understood as an integral whole only

by a (comparatively) few persons. The agitator, however, speaking on the same

subject, will take as an illustration a fact that is most glaring and most

widely known to his audience, say, the death of an unemployed worker's family

from starvation, the growing impoverishment, etc., and, utilising this fact,

known to all, will direct his efforts to presenting a single idea to the

"masses", e.g., the senselessness of the contradiction between the increase of

wealth and the increase of poverty; he will strive to rouse discontent and

indignation among the masses against this crying injustice, leaving a more

complete explanation of this contradiction to the propagandist. Consequently,

the propagandist operates chiefly by means of the printed word; the agitator by

means of the spoken word. The propagandist requires qualities different from

those of the agitator. Kautsky and Lafargue, for example, we term propagandists;

Bebel and Guesde we term agitators. To single out a third sphere, or third

function, of practical activity, and to include in this function "the call upon

the masses to undertake definite concrete actions", is sheer nonsense, because

the "call", as a single act, either naturally and inevitably supplements the

theoretical treatise, propagandist pamphlet, and agitational speech, or

represents a purely executive function. Let us take, for example, the struggle

the German Social-Democrats are now waging against the corn duties. The

theoreticians write research works on tariff policy, with the "call", say, to

struggle for commercial treaties and for Free Trade. The propagandist does the

same thing in the periodical press, and the agitator in public speeches. At the

present time, the "concrete action" of the masses takes the form of signing

petitions to the Reichstag against raising the corn duties. The call for this

action comes indirectly from the theoreticians, the propagandists, and the

agitators, and, directly, from the workers who take the petition lists to the

factories and to private homes for the gathering of signatures. According to the

"Martynov terminology", Kautsky and Bebel are both propagandists, while those

who solicit the signatures are agitators. Isn't it clear?

The German example recalled to my mind the German word which, literally

translated, means "Ballhorning". Johann Ballhorn, a Leipzig publisher of the

sixteenth century, published a child's reader in which, as was the custom, he

introduced a drawing of a cock, but a cock without spurs and with a couple of

eggs lying near it. On the cover he printed the legend, "Revised edition by

Johann Ballhorn". Ever since then, the Germans describe any "revision" that is

really a worsening as "ballhorning". And one cannot help recalling Ballhorn upon

seeing how the Martynovs try to render Plekhanov "more profound".

Why did our Lomonosov "invent" this confusion? In order to illustrate how Iskra

"devotes attention only to one side of the case, just as Pleklianov did a decade

and a half ago" (39). "With Iskra, propagandist tasks force agitational tasks

into the background, at least for the present" (52). If we translate this last

proposition from the language of Martynov into ordinary human language (because

mankind has not yet managed to learn the newly-invented terminology), we shall

get the following: with Iskra, the tasks of political propaganda and political

agitation force into the background the task of "presenting to the government

concrete demands for legislative and administrative measures" that "promise

certain palpable results" (or demands for social reforms, that is, if we are

permitted once again to employ the old terminology of the old mankind not yet

grown to Martynov's level). We suggest that the reader compare this thesis with

the following tirade:

"What also astonishes us in these programmes [the programmes advanced by

revolutionary Social-Democrats] is their constant stress upon the benefits of

workers' activity in parliament (non-existent in Russia), though they completely

ignore (thanks to their revolutionary nihilism) the importance of workers'

participation in the legislative manufacturers' assemblies on factory affairs

[which do exist in Russia] ... or at least the importance of workers'

participation in municipal bodies...."

The author of this tirade expresses in a somewhat more forthright and clearer

manner the very idea which Lomonosov-Martynov discovered by his own

understanding. The author is R. M., in the "Separate Supplement" to Rabochaya

Mysl (p. 15).

C. Political Exposures And "Training In Revolutionary Activity"

In advancing against Iskra his theory of "raising the activity of the working

masses", Martynov actually betrayed an urge to belittle that activity, for he

declared the very economic struggle before which all economists grovel to be the

preferable, particularly important, and "most widely applicable" means of

rousing this activity and its broadest field. This error is characteristic,

precisely in that it is by no means peculiar to Martynov. In reality, it is

possible to "raise the activity of the working masses" only when this activity

is not restricted to "political agitation on an economic basis". A basic

condition for the necessary expansion of political agitation is the organisation

of comprehensive political exposure. In no way except by means of such exposures

can the masses be trained in political consciousness and revolutionary activity.

Hence, activity of this kind is one of the most important functions of

international Social-Democracy as a whole, for even political freedom does not

in any way eliminate exposures; it merely shifts somewhat their sphere of

direction. Thus, the German party is especially strengthening its positions and

spreading its influence, thanks particularly to the untiring energy with which

it is conducting its campaign of political exposure. Working-class consciousness

cannot be genuine political consciousness unless the workers are trained to

respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence, and abuse, no matter what

class is affected -- unless they are trained, moreover, to respond from a

Social-Democratic point of view and no other. The consciousness of the working

masses cannot be genuine class-consciousness, unless the workers learn, from

concrete, and above all from topical, political facts and events to observe

every other social class in all the manifestations of its intellectual, ethical,

and political life; unless they learn to apply in practice the materialist

analysis and the materialist estimate of all aspects of the life and activity of

all classes, strata, and groups of the population. Those who concentrate the

attention, observation, and consciousness of the working class exclusively, or

even mainly, upon itself alone are not Social-Democrats; for the self-knowledge

of the working class is indissolubly bound up, not solely with a fully clear

theoretical understanding -- or rather, not so much with the theoretical, as

with the practical, understanding -- of the relationships between all the

various classes of modern society, acquired through the experience of political

life. For this reason the conception of the economic struggle as the most widely

applicable means of drawing the masses into the political movement, which our

Economists preach, is so extremely harmful and reactionary in its practical

significance. In order to become a Social-Democrat, the worker must have a clear

picture in his mind of the economic nature and the social and political features

of the landlord and the priest, the high state official and the peasant, the

student and the vagabond; he must know their strong and weak points; he must

grasp the meaning of all the catchwords and sophisms by which each class and

each stratum camouflages its selfish strivings and its real "inner workings"; he

must understand what interests are reflected by certain institutions and certain

laws and how they are reflected. But this "clear picture" cannot be obtained

from any book. It can be obtained only from living examples and from exposures

that follow close upon what is going on about us at a given moment; upon what is

being discussed, in whispers perhaps, by each one in his own way; upon what

finds expression in such and such events, in such and such statistics, in such

and such court sentences, etc., etc. These comprehensive political exposures are

an essential and fundamental condition for training the masses in revolutionary


Why do the Russian workers still manifest little revolutionary activity in

response to the brutal treatment of the people by the police, the persecution of

religious sects, the flogging of peasants, the outrageous censorship, the

torture of soldiers, the persecution of the most innocent cultural undertakings,

etc.? Is it because the "economic struggle" does not "stimulate" them to this,

because such activity does not "promise palpable results", because it produces

little that is "positive"? To adopt such an opinion, we repeat, is merely to

direct the charge where it does not belong, to blame the working masses for

one's own philistinism (or Bernsteinism). We must blame ourselves, our lagging

behind the mass movement, for still being unable to organise sufficiently wide,

striking, and rapid exposures of all the shameful outrages. When we do that (and

we must and can do it), the most backward worker will understand, or will feel,

that the students and religious sects, the peasants and the authors are being

abused and outraged by those same dark forces that are oppressing and crushing

him at every step of his life. Feeling that, he himself will be filled with an

irresistible desire to react, and he will know how to hoot the censors one day,

on another day to demonstrate outside the house of a governor who has brutally

suppressed a peasant uprising, on still another day to teach a lesson to the

gendarmes in surplices who are doing the work of the Holy Inquisition, etc. As

yet we have done very little, almost nothing, to bring before the working masses

prompt exposures on all possible issues. Many of us as yet do not recognise this

as our bounden duty but trail spontaneously in the wake of the "drab everyday

struggle", in the narrow confines of factory life. Under such circumstances to

say that "Iskra displays a tendency to minimise the significance of the forward

march of the drab everyday struggle in comparison with the propaganda of

brilliant and complete ideas" (Martynov, op. cit., p. 61), means to drag the

Party back, to defend and glorify our unpreparedness and backwardness.

As for calling the masses to action, that will come of itself as soon as

energetic political agitation, live and striking exposures come into play. To

catch some criminal red-handed and immediately to brand him publicly in all

places is of itself far more effective than any number of "calls"; the effect

very often is such as will make it impossible to tell exactly who it was that

"called" upon the masses and who suggested this or that plan of demonstration,

etc. Calls for action, not in the general, but in the concrete, sense of the

term can be made only at the place of action; only those who themselves go into

action, and do so immediately, can sound such calls. Our business as

Social-Democratic publicists is to deepen, expand, and intensify political

exposures and political agitation.

A word in passing about "calls to action". The only newspaper which prior to the

spring events called upon the workers to intervene actively in a matter that

certainly did not promise any palpable results whatever for the workers, i.e.,

the drafting of the students into the army, was Iskra. Immediately after the

publication of the order of January 11, on "drafting the 183 students into the

army", Iskra published an article on the matter (in its February issue, No. 2),

[10] and, before any demonstration was begun, forthwith called upon "the workers

to go to the aid of the students", called upon the "people" openly to take up

the government's arrogant challenge. We ask: how is the remarkable fact to be

explained that although Martynov talks so much about "calls to action", and even

suggests "calls to action" as a special form of activity, he said not a word

about this call? After this, was it not sheer philistinism on Martynov's part to

allege that Iskra was one-sided because it did not issue sufficient "calls" to

struggle for demands "promising palpable results"?

Our Economists, including Rabocheye Dyelo, were successful because they adapted

themselves to the backward workers. But the Social-Democratic worker, the

revolutionary worker (and the number of such workers is growing) will

indignantly reject all this talk about struggle for demands "promising palpable

results", etc., because he will understand that this is only a variation of the

old song about adding a kopek to the ruble. Such a worker will say to his

counsellors from Rabochaya Mysl and Rabocheye Dyelo: you are busying yourselves

in vain, gentlemen, and shirking your proper duties, by meddling with such

excessive zeal in a job that we can very well manage ourselves. There is nothing

clever in your assertion that the Social-Democrats' task is to lend the economic

struggle itself a political character; that is only the beginning, it is not the

main task of the Social-Democrats. For all over the world, including Russia, the

police themselves often take the initiative in lending the economic struggle a

political character, and the workers themselves learn to understand whom the

government supports. [11] The "economic struggle of the workers against the

employers and the government", about which you make as much fuss as if you had

discovered a new America, is being waged in all parts of Russia, even the most

remote, by the workers themselves who have heard about strikes, but who have

heard almost nothing about socialism. The "activity" you want to stimulate among

us workers, by advancing concrete demands that promise palpable results, we are

already displaying and in our everyday, limited trade union work we put forward

these concrete demands, very often without any assistance whatever from the

intellectuals. But such activity is not enough for us; we are not children to be

fed on the thin gruel of "economic" politics alone; we want to know everything

that others know, we want to learn the details of all aspects of political life

and to take part actively in every single political event. In order that we may

do this, the intellectuals must talk to us less of what we already know. [12]

and tell us more about what we do not yet know and what we can never learn from

our factory and "economic" experience, namely, political knowledge. You

intellectuals can acquire this knowledge, and it is your duty to bring it to us

in a hundred- and a thousand-fold greater measure than you have done up to now;

and you must bring it to us, not only in the form of discussions, pamphlets, and

articles (which very often -- pardon our frankness -- are rather dull), but

precisely in the form of vivid exposures of what our government and our

governing classes are doing at this very moment in all spheres of life. Devote

more zeal to carrying out this duty and talk less about "raising the activity of

the working masses". We are far more active than you think, and we are quite

able to support, by open street fighting, even demands that do not promise any

"palpable results" whatever. It is not for you to "raise" our activity, because

activity is precisely the thing you yourselves lack. Bow less in subservience to

spontaneity, and think more about raising your own activity, gentlemen!

D. What Is There In Common Between Economism and Terrorism?

In the last footnote we cited the opinion of an Economist and of a non-Social

-Democratic terrorist, who showed themselves to be accidentally in agreement.

Speaking generally, however, there is not an accidental, but a necessary,

inherent connection between the two, of which we shall have need to speak later,

and which must be mentioned here in connection with the question of education

for revolutionary activity. The Economists and the root, namely, subservience to

spontaneity, with which we dealt in the preceding chapter as a general

phenomenon and which we shall now examine in relation to its effect upon

political activity and the political struggle. At first sight, our assertion may

appear paradoxical, so great is the difference between those who stress the

"drab everyday struggle" and those who call for the most self sacrificing

struggle of individuals. But this is no paradox. The Economists and the

terrorists merely bow to different poles of spontaneity; the Economists bow to

the spontaneity of "the labour movement pure and simple", while the terrorists

bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of intellectuals, who lack

the ability or opportunity to connect the revolutionary struggle and the

working-class movement into an integral whole. It is difficult indeed for those

who have lost their belief, or who have never believed, that this is possible,

to find some outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy other than

terror. Thus, both forms of subservience to spontaneity we have mentioned are

nothing but the beginning of the implementation of the notorious Credo

programme: Let the workers wage their "economic struggle against the employers

and the government" (we apologise to the author of the Credo for expressing her

views in Martynov's words. We think we have a right to do so since the Credo,

too, says that in the economic struggle the workers "come up against the

political regime and let the intellectuals conduct the political struggle by

their own efforts -- with the aid of terror, of course! This is an absolutely

logical and inevitable conclusion which must be insisted on -- even though those

who are beginning to carry out this programme do not themselves realise that it

is inevitable. Political activity has its logic quite apart from the

consciousness of those who, with the best intentions, call either for terror or

for lending the economic struggle itself a political character. The road to hell

is paved with good intentions, and, in this case, good intentions cannot save

one from being spontaneously drawn "along the line of least resistance", along

the line of the purely bourgeois Credo programme. Surely it is no accident

either that many Russian liberals -- avowed liberals and liberals that wear the

mask of Marxism -- whole-heartedly sympathise with terror and try to foster the

terrorist moods that have surged up in the present time.

The formation of the Revolutionary-Socialist Svoboda Group which set itself the

aim of helping the working-class movement in every possible way, but which

included in its programme terror, and emancipation, so to speak, from

Social-Democracy -- once again confirmed the remarkable perspicacity of P. B.

Axelrod, who literally foretold these results of Social-Democratic waverings as

far back as the end of 1897 (Present Tasks and Tactics), when he outlined his

famous "two perspectives". All the subsequent disputes and disagreements among

Russian Social-Democrats are contained, like a plant in the seed, in these two

perspectives. [13]

From this point of view it also becomes clear why Rabocheye Dyelo, unable to

withstand the spontaneity of Economism, has likewise been unable to withstand

the spontaneity of terrorism. It is highly interesting to note here the specific

arguments that Svoboda has advanced in defence of terrorism. It "completely

denies" the deterrent role of terrorism (The Regeneration of Revolutionism, p.

64), but instead stresses its "excitative significance". This is characteristic,

first, as representing one of the stages of the breakup and decline of the

traditional (pre-Social-Democratic) cycle of ideas which insisted upon

terrorism. The admission that the government cannot now be "terrified" and hence

disrupted, by terror, is tantamount to a complete condemnation of terror as a

system of struggle, as a sphere of activity sanctioned by the programme.

Secondly, it is still more characteristic as an example of the failure to

understand our immediate tasks in regard to "education for revolutionary

activity". Svoboda advocates terror as a means of "exciting" the working-class

movement and of giving it a "strong impetus". It is difficult to imagine an

argument that more thoroughly disproves itself. Are there not enough outrages

committed in Russian life without special "excitants" having to be invented? On

the other hand, is it not obvious that those who are not, and cannot be, roused

to excitement even by Russian tyranny will stand by "twiddling their thumbs" and

watch a handful of terrorists engaged in single combat with the government? The

fact is that the working masses are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the

social evils in Russian life, but we are unable to gather, if one may so put it,

and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular resentment that are

brought forth to a far larger extent than we imagine by the conditions of

Russian life, and that must be combined into a single gigantic torrent. That

this can be accomplished is irrefutably proved by the enormous growth of the

working-class movement and the eagerness, noted above, with which the workers

clamour for political literature. On the other hand, calls for terror and calls

to lend the economic struggle itself a political character are merely two

different forms of evading the most pressing duty now resting upon Russian

revolutionaries, namely, the organisation of comprehensive political agitation.

Svoboda desires to substitute terror for agitation, openly admitting that "as

soon as intensified and strenuous agitation is begun among the masses the

excitative function of terror will be ended" (The Regeneration of Revolutionism,

p. 68). This proves precisely that both the terrorists and the Economists

underestimate the revolutionary activity of the masses, despite the striking

evidence of the events that took place in the spring, [14] and whereas the one

group goes out in search of artificial "excitants", the other talks about

"concrete demands". But both fail to devote sufficient attention to the

development of their own activity in political agitation and in the organisation

of political exposures. And no other work can serve as a substitute for this

task either at the present time or at any other.

E. The Working Class As Vanguard Fighter For Democracy

We have seen that the conduct of the broadest political agitation and,

consequently, of all-sided political exposures is an absolutely necessary and a

paramount task of our activity, if this activity is to be truly

Social-Democratic. However, we arrived at this conclusion solely on the grounds

of the pressing needs of the working class for political knowledge and political

training. But such a presentation of the question is too narrow, for it ignores

the general democratic tasks of Social-Democracy, in particular of present-day

Russian Social-Democracy. In order to explain the point more concretely we shall

approach the subject from an aspect that is "nearest" to the Economist, namely,

from the practical aspect. "Everyone agrees" that it is necessary to develop the

political consciousness of the working class. The question is, how that is to be

done and what is required to do it. The economic struggle merely "impels" the

workers to realise the government's attitude towards the working class.

Consequently, however much we may try to "lend the economic, struggle itself a

political character", we shall never be able to develop the political

consciousness of the workers (to the level of Social-Democratic political

consciousness) by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for

that framework is too narrow. The Martynov formula has some value for us, not

because it illustrates Martynov's aptitude for confusing things, but because it

pointedly expresses the basic error that all the Economists commit, namely,

their conviction that it is possible to develop the class political

consciousness of the workers from within, so to speak, from their economic

struggle, i.e., by making this struggle the exclusive (or, at least, the main)

starting-point, by making it the exclusive (or, at least, the main) basis. Such

a view is radically wrong. Piqued by our polemics against them, the Economists

refuse to ponder deeply over the origins of these disagreements, with the result

that we simply cannot understand one another. It is as if we spoke in different


Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without,

that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of

relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is

possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes

and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations

between all classes. For that reason, the reply to the question as to what must

be done to bring political knowledge to the workers cannot be merely the answer

with which, in the majority of cases, the practical workers, especially those

inclined towards Economism, mostly content themselves, namely: "To go among the

workers." To bring political knowledge to the workers the Social Democrats must

go among all classes of the population; they must dispatch units of their army

in all directions.

We deliberately select this blunt formula, we deliberately express ourselves in

this sharply simplified manner, not because we desire to indulge in paradoxes,

but in order to "impel" the Economists to a realisation of their tasks which

they unpardonably ignore, to suggest to them strongly the difference between

trade-unionist and Social-Democratic politics, which they refuse to understand.

We therefore beg the reader not to get wrought up, but to hear us patiently to

the end.

Let us take the type of Social-Democratic study circle that has become most

widespread in the past few years and examine its work. It has "contacts with the

workers" and rests content with this, issuing leaflets in which abuses in the

factories, the government's partiality towards the capitalists, and the tyranny

of the police are strongly condemned. At workers' meetings the discussions

never, or rarely ever, go beyond the limits of these subjects. Extremely rare

are the lectures and discussions held on the history of the revolutionary

movement, on questions of the government's home and foreign policy, on questions

of the economic evolution of Russia and of Europe, on the position of the

various classes in modern society, etc. As to systematically acquiring and

extending contact with other classes of society, no one even dreams of that. In

fact, the ideal leader, as the majority of the members of such circles picture

him, is something far more in the nature of a trade union secretary than a

socialist political leader. For the secretary of any, say English, trade union

always helps the workers to carry on the economic struggle, he helps them to

expose factory abuses, explains the injustice of the laws and of measures that

hamper the freedom to strike and to picket (i. e., to warn all and sundry that a

strike is proceeding at a certain factory), explains the partiality of

arbitration court judges who belong to the bourgeois classes, etc., etc. In a

word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct "the economic

struggle against the employers and the government". It cannot be too strongly

maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat's

ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people,

who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter

where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who

is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of

police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of

every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist

convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone

the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the

proletariat. Compare, for example, a leader like Robert Knight (the well-known

secretary and leader of the Boiler-Makers' Society, one of the most powerful

trade unions in England), with Wilhelm Liebknecht, and try to apply to them the

contrasts that Martynov draws in his controversy with Iskra. You will see -- I

am running through Martynov's article -- that Robert Knight engaged more in

"calling the masses to certain concrete actions" (Martynov, op. cit., p. 39),

while Willielin Liebknecht engaged more in "the revolutionary elucidation of the

whole of the present system or partial manifestations of it" (38-39); that

Robert Knight "formulated the immediate demands of the proletariat and indicated

the means by which they can be achieved" (41), whereas Wilhelm Liebknecht, while

doing this, did not hold back from "simultaneously guiding the activities of

various opposition strata", "dictating a positive programme of action for them"

[15] (41); that Robert Knight strove "as far as possible to lend the economic

struggle itself a political character" (42) and was excellently able "to submit

to the government concrete demands promising certain palpable results" (43),

whereas Liebknecht engaged to a much greater degree in "one-sided" "exposures"

(40); that Robert Knight attached more significance to the "forward march of the

drab everyday struggle" (61), whereas Liebknecht attached more significance to

the "propaganda of brilliant and completed ideas" (61); that Liebknecht

converted the paper he was directing into "an organ of revolutionary opposition

that exposed the state of affairs in our country, particularly the political

state of affairs, insofar as it affected the interests of the most varied strata

of the population" (63), whereas Robert Knight "worked for the cause of the

working class in close organic connection with the proletarian struggle" (63) --

if by "close and organic connection" is meant the subservience to spontaneity

which we examined above, by taking the examples of Krichevsky and Martynov --

and "restricted the sphere of his influence", convinced, of course, as is

Martynov, that "by doing so he deepened that influence" (63). In a word, you

will see that de facto Martynov reduces Social-Democracy to the level of

trade-unionism, though he does so, of course, not because he does not desire the

good of Social-Democracy, but simply because he is a little too much in a hurry

to render Plekhanov more profound, instead of taking the trouble to understand


Let us return, however, to our theses. We said that a Social Democrat, if he

really believes it necessary to develop comprehensively the political

consciousness of the proletariat, must "go among all classes of the population".

This gives rise to the questions: how is this to be done? have we enough forces

to do this? is there a basis for such work among all the other classes? will

this not mean a retreat, or lead to a retreat, from the class point of view? Let

us deal with these questions.

We must "go among all classes of the population" as theoreticians, as

proagandists, as agitators, and as organisers. Noone doubts that the theoretical

work of Social-Democrats should aim at studying all the specific features of the

social and political condition of the various classes. But extremely little is

done in this direction as compared with the work that is done in studying the

specific features of factory life. In the committees and study circles, one can

meet people who are immersed in the study even of some special branch of the

metal industry; but one can hardly ever find members of organisations (obliged,

as often happens, for some reason or other to give up practical work) who are

especially engaged in gathering material on some pressing question of social and

political life in our country which could serve as a means for conducting

Social-Democratic work among other strata of the population. In dwelling upon

the fact that the majority of the present-day leaders of the working-class

movement lack training, we cannot refrain from mentioning training in this

respect also, for it too is bound up with the Economist conception of "close

organic connection with the proletarian struggle". The principal thing, of

course, is propaganda and agitation among all strata of the people. The work of

the West European Social-Democrat is in this respect facilitated by the public

meetings and rallies which all are free to attend, and by the fact that in

parliament he addresses the representatives of all classes. We have neither a

parliament nor freedom of assembly; nevertheless, we are able to arrange

meetings of workers who desire to listen to a Social-Democrat. We must also find

ways and means of calling meetings of representatives of all social classes that

desire to listen to a democrat; for he is no Social-Democrat who forgets in

practice that "the Communists support every revolutionary movement", that we are

obliged for that reason to expound and emphasise general democratic tasks before

the whole people, without for a moment concealing our socialist convictions. He

is no Social-Democrat who forgets in practice his obligation to be ahead of all

in raising, accentuating, and solving every general democratic question.

"But everyone agrees with this!" the impatient reader will exclaim, and the new

instructions adopted by the last conference of the Union Abroad for the

Editorial Board of Rabocheye Dyelo definitely say: 'All events of social and

political life that affect the proletariat either directly as a special class or

as the vanguard of all the revolutionary forces in the struggle for freedom

should serve as subjects for political propaganda and agitation" (Two

Conferences, p. 17, our italics). Yes, these are very true and very good words,

and we would be fully satisfied if Rabocheye Dyelo understood them and if it

refrained from saying in the next breath things that contradict them. For it is

not enough to call ourselves the "vanguard", the advanced contingent; we must

act in such a way that all the other contingents recognise and are obliged to

admit that we are marching in the vanguard. And we ask the reader: Are the

representatives of the other "contingents" such fools as to take our word for it

when we say that we are the "vanguard"? just picture to yourselves the

following: a Social-Democrat comes to the "contingent" of Russian educated

radicals, or liberal constitutionalists, and says, We are the vanguard; "the

task confronting us now is, as far as possible, to lend the economic struggle

itself a political character". The radical, or constitutionalist, if he is at

all intelligent (and there are many intelligent men among Russian radicals and

constitutionalists), would only smile at such a speech and would say (to

himself, of course, for in the majority of cases he is an experienced diplomat):

"Your 'vanguard' must be made up of simpletons. They do not even understand that

it is our task, the task of the progressive representatives of bourgeois

democracy to lend the workers' economic struggle itself a political character.

Why, we too, like the West-European bourgeois, want to draw the workers into

politics, but only into trade-unionist, not into Social-Democratic politics.

Trade-unionist politics of the working class is precisely bourgeois politics of

the working class, and this 'vanguard's' formulation of its task is the

formulation of trade-unionist politics! Let them call themselves

Social-Democrats to their heart's content, I am not a child to get excited over

a label. But they must not fall under the influence of those pernicious orthodox

doctrinaires, let them allow 'freedom of criticism' to those who unconsciously

are driving Social-Democracy into trade-unionist channels."

And the faint smile of our constitutionalist will turn into Homeric laughter

when he learns that the Social-Democrats who talk of Social-Democracy as the

vanguard, today, when spontaneity almost completely dominates our movement, fear

nothing so much as "belittling the spontaneous element", as "underestimating the

significance of the forward movement of the drab everyday struggle, as compared

with the propaganda of brilliant and completed ideas", etc., etc.! A "vanguard"

which fears that consciousness will outstrip spontaneity, which fears to put

forward a bold "plan" that would compel general recognition even among those who

differ with us. Are they not confusing "vanguard" with "rearguard"?

Indeed, let us examine the following piece of reasoning by Martynov. On page 40

he says that Iskra is one-sided in its tactics of exposing abuses, that "however

much we may spread distrust and hatred of the government, we shall not achieve

our aim until we have succeeded in developing sufficient active social energy

for its overthrow". This, it may be said parenthetically, is the familiar

solicitude for the activation of the masses, with a simultaneous striving to

restrict one's own activity. But that is not the main point at the moment.

Martynov speaks here, accordingly, of revolutionary energy ("for overthrowing").

And what conclusion does he arrive at? Since in ordinary times various social

strata inevitably march separately, "it is therefore, clear that we

Social-Democrats cannot simultaneously guide the activities of various

opposition strata, we cannot dictate to them a positive programme of action, we

cannot point out to them in what manner they should wage a day-to-day struggle

for their interests.... The liberal strata will themselves take care of the

active struggle for their immediate interests, the struggle that will bring them

face to face with our political regime" (p. 41). Thus, having begun with talk

about revolutionary energy, about the active struggle for the overthrow of the

autocracy, Martynov immediately turns toward trade union energy and active

struggle for immediate interests! It goes without saying that we cannot guide

the struggle of the students, liberals, etc., for their "immediate interests";

but this was not the point at issue, most worthy Economist! The point we were

discussing was the possible and necessary participation of various social strata

in the overthrow of the autocracy; and not only are we able, but it is our

bounden duty, to guide these "activities of the various opposition strata", if

we desire to be the "vanguard". Not only will our students and liberals, etc.,

themselves take care of "the struggle that brings them face to face with our

political regime"; the police and the officials of the autocratic government

will see to this first and foremost. But if "we" desire to be front-rank

democrats, we must make it our concern to direct the thoughts of those who are

dissatisfied only with conditions at the university, or in the Zemstvo, etc., to

the idea that the entire political system is worthless. We must take upon

ourselves the task of organising an all-round political struggle under the

leadership of our Party in such a manner as to make it possible for all

oppositional strata to render their fullest support to the struggle and to our

Party. We must train our Social-Democratic practical workers to become political

leaders, able to guide all the manifestations of this all-round struggle, able

at the right time to "dictate a positive programme of action" for the aroused

students, the discontented Zemstvo people, the incensed religious sects, the

offended elementary schoolteachers, etc., etc. For that reason, Martynov's

assertion that "with regard to these, we can function merely in the negative

role of exposers of abuses... we can only dissipate their hopes in various

government commissions" is completely false (our italics). By saying this,

Martynov shows that he absolutely fails to understand the role that the

revolutionary "vanguard" must really play. If the reader bears this in mind, he

will be clear as to the real meaning of Martynov's concluding remarks: "Iskra is

the organ of the revolutionary opposition which exposes the state of affairs in

our country, particularly the political state of affairs, insofar as it affects

the interests of the most varied strata of the population. We, however, work and

will continue to work for the cause of the working class in close organic

contact with the proletarian struggle. By restricting the sphere of our active

influence we deepen that influence" (63). The true sense of this conclusion is

as follows: Iskra desires to elevate the trade-unionist politics of the working

class (to which, through misconception, through lack of training, or through

conviction, our practical workers frequently confine themselves) to the level of

Social-Democratic politics. Rabocheye Dyelo, however, desires to degrade

Social-Democratic politics to trade-unionist politics. Moreover, it assures the

world that the two positions are "entirely compatible within the common cause"

(63). 0, sancta simplicitas!

To proceed. Have we sufficient forces to direct our propaganda and agitation

among all social classes? Most certainly. Our Economists, who are frequently

inclined to deny this, lose sight of the gigantic progress our movement has made

from (approximately) 1894 to 1901. Like real "tail-enders" they often go on

living in the bygone stages of the movement's inception. In the earlier period ,

indeed, we had astonishingly few forces, and it was perfectly natural and

legitimate then to devote ourselves exclusively to activities among the workers

and to condemn severely any deviation from this course. The entire task then was

to consolidate our position in the working class. At the present time, however,

gigantic forces have been attracted to the movement. The best representatives of

the younger generation of the educated classes are coming over to us. Everywhere

in the provinces there are people, resident there by dint of circumstance, who

have taken part in the movement in the past or who desire to do so now and who,

are gravitating towards Social-Democracy (whereas in 1894 one could count the

Social-Democrats on the fingers of one's hand). A basic political and

organisational shortcoming of our movement is our inability to utilise all these

forces and give them appropriate work (we shall deal with this more fully in the

next chapter). The overwhelming majority of these forces entirely lack the

opportunity of "going among the workers", so that there are no grounds for

fearing that we shall divert forces from our main work. In order to be able to

provide the workers with real, comprehensive, and live political knowledge, we

must have "our own people", Social-Democrats, everywhere, among all social

strata, and in all positions from which we can learn the inner springs of our

state mechanism. Such people are required, not only for propaganda and

agitation, but in a still larger measure for organisation.

Is there a basis for activity among all classes of the population? Whoever

doubts this lags in his consciousness behind the spontaneous awakening of the

masses. The working-class movement has aroused and is continuing to arouse

discontent in some, hopes of support for the opposition in others, and in still

others the realisation that the autocracy is unbearable and must inevitably

fall. We would be "politicians" and Social-Democrats in name only (as all too

often happens in reality), if we failed to realise that our task is to utilise

every manifestation of discontent, and to gather and turn to the best account

every protest, however small. This is quite apart from the fact that the

millions of the labouring peasantry, handicraftsmen, petty artisans, etc., would

always listen eagerly to the speech of any Social-Democrat who is at all

qualified. Indeed, is there a single social class in which there are no

individuals, groups, or circles that are discontented with the lack of rights

and with tyranny and, therefore, accessible to the propaganda of

Social-Democrats as the spokesmen of the most pressing general democratic needs?

To those who desire to have a clear idea of what the political agitation of a

Social-Democrat among all classes and strata of the population should be like,

we would point to political exposures in the broad sense of the word as the

principal (but, of course, not the sole) form of this agitation.

"We must arouse in every section of the population that is at all politically

conscious a passion for political exposure," l wrote in my article "Where To

Begin" [Iskra, May (No. 4), 1901], with which I shall deal in greater detail

later. "We must not be discouraged by the fact that the voice of political

exposure is today so feeble, timid, and infrequent. This is not because of a

wholesale submission to police despotism, but because those who are able and

ready to make exposures have no tribune from which to speak, no eager and

encouraging audience, they do not see anywhere among the people that force to

which it would be worth while directing their complaint against the 'omnipotent'

Russian Government.... We are now in a position to provide a tribune for the

nation-wide exposure of the tsarist government, and it is our duty to do this.

That tribune must be a Social-Democratic newspaper." [16]

The ideal audience for political exposure is the working class, which is first

and foremost in need of all-round and live political knowledge, and is most

capable of converting this knowledge into active struggle, even when that

struggle does not promise "palpable results". A tribune for nation-wide

exposures can be only an all-Russia newspaper. "Without a political organ, a

political movement deserving that name is inconceivable in the Europe of today";

in this respect Russia must undoubtedly be included in present-day Europe. The

press long ago became a power in our country, otherwise the government would not

spend tens of thousands of rubles to bribe it and to subsidise the Katkovs and

Meshcherskys. And it is no novelty in autocratic Russia for the underground

press to break through the wall of censorship and compel the legal and

conservative press to speak openly of it. This was the case in the seventies and

even in the fifties. How much broader and deeper are now the sections of the

people willing to read the illegal underground press, and to learn from it "how

to live and how to die"', to use the expression of a worker who sent a letter to

Iskra (No. 7). Political exposures are as much a declaration of war against the

government as economic exposures are a declaration of war against the factory

owners. The moral significance of this declaration of war will be all the

greater, the wider and more powerful the campaign of exposure will be and the

more numerous and determined the social class that has declared war in order to

begin the war. Hence, political exposures in themselves serve as a powerful

instrument for disintegrating the system we oppose, as a means for diverting

from the enemy his casual or temporary allies, as a means for spreading

hostility and distrust among the permanent partners of the autocracy.

In our time only a party that will organise really nation-wide exposures can

become the vanguard of the revolutionary forces. The word "nation-wide" has a

very profound meaning. The overwhelming majority of the non-working- class

exposers (be it remembered that in order to become the vanguard, we must attract

other classes) are sober politicians and level-headed men of affairs. They know

perfectly well how dangerous it is to "complain" even against a minor official,

let alone against the "omnipotent" Russian Government. And they will come to us

with their complaints only when they see that these complaints can really have

effect, and that we represent a political force. In order to become such a force

in the eyes of outsiders, much persistent and stubborn work is required to raise

our own consciousness, initiative, and energy.. To accomplish this it is not

enough to attach a "vanguard" label to rearguard theory and practice.

But if we have to undertake the organisation of a really nationwide exposure of

the government, in what way will then the class character of our movement be

expressed? -- the overzealous advocate of "close organic contact with the

proletarian struggle" will ask us, as indeed he does. The reply is manifold: we

Social-Democrats will organise these nation-wide exposures; all questions raised

by the agitation will he explained in a consistently Social-Democratic spirit,

without any concessions to deliberate or undeliberate distortions of Marxism;

the all-round political agitation will be conducted by a party which unites into

one inseparable whole the assault on the government in the name of the entire

people, the revolutionary training of the proletariat, and the safeguarding of

its political independence, the guidance of the economic struggle of the working

class, and the utilisation of all its spontaneous conflicts with its exploiters

which rouse and bring into our camp increasing numbers of the proletariat.

But a most characteristic feature of Economism is its failure to understand this

connection, more, this identity of the most pressing need of the proletariat (a

comprehensive political education through the medium of political agitation and

political exposures) with the need of the general democratic movement. This lack

of understanding is expressed, not only in "Martynovite" phrases, but in the

references to a supposedly class point of view identical in meaning with these

phrases. Thus, the authors of the Economist letter in Iskra, No. 12, state: [17]

"This basic drawback of Iskra (overestimation of ideology] is also the cause of

its inconsistency on the question of the attitude of Social-Democracy to the

various social classes and tendencies. By theoretical reasoning (not by "the

growth of Party tasks, which grow together with the Party"), Iskra solved the

problem of the immediate transition to the struggle against absolutism. In all

probability it senses the difficulty of such a task for the workers under the

present state of affairs (not only senses, but knows full well that this task

appears less difficult to the workers than to the Economist intellectuals with

their nursemaid concern, for the workers are prepared to fight even for demands

which, to use the language of the never-to-be-forgotten Martynov, do not

"promise palpable results") but lacking the patience to wait until the workers

will have gathered sufficient forces for this struggle, Iskra begins to seek

allies in the ranks of the liberals and intellectuals". . . .

Yes, we have indeed lost all "patience" "waiting" for the blessed time, long

promised us by diverse "conciliators", when the Economists will have stopped

charging the workers with their own backwardness and justifying their own lack

of energy with allegations that the workers lack strength. We ask our

Economists: What do they mean by "the gathering of workingclass strength for the

struggle"? Is it not evident that this means the political training of the

workers, so that all the aspects of our vile autocracy are revealed to them? And

is it not clear that precisely for this work we need "allies in the ranks of the

liberals and intellectuals", who are prepared to join us in the exposure of the

political attack on the Zemstvos, on the teachers, on the statisticians, on the

students, etc.? Is this surprisingly "intricate mechanism" really so difficult

to understand? Has not P. B. Axelrod constantly repeated since 1897 that "the

task before the Russian Social-Democrats of acquiring adherents and direct and

indirect allies among the non-proletarian classes will be solved principally and

primarily by the character of the propagandist activities conducted among the

proletariat itself"? But the Martynovs and the other Economists continue to

imagine that "by economic struggle against the employers and the government" the

workers must first gather strength (for trade-unionist politics) and then "go

over" -- we presume from trade-unionist "training for activity" to

Social-Democratic activity!

"...In this quest," continue the Economists, "Iskra not infrequently departs

from the class point of view, obscures class antagonisms, and puts into the

forefront the common nature of the discontent with the government, although the

causes and the degree of the discontent vary considerably among the 'allies'.

Such, for example, is Iskra's attitude towards the Zemstvo . . ." Iskra, it is

alleged, "promises the nobles that are dissatisfied with the government's sops

the assistance of the working class, but it does not say a word about the class

antagonism that exists between these social strata". If the reader will turn to

the article "The Autocracy and the Zemstvo" (Iskra, Nos. 2 and 4), to which, in

all probability, the authors of the letter refer, he will find that they [18]

deal with the attitude of the government towards the "mild agitation of the

bureaucratic Zemstvo, which is based on the social-estates", and towards the

"independent activity of even the propertied classes". The article states that

the workers cannot look on indifferently while the government is waging a

struggle against the Zemstvo, and the Zemstvos are called upon to stop making

mild speeches and to speak firmly and resolutely when revolutionary

Social-Democracy confronts the government in all its strength. What the authors

of the letter do not agree with here is not clear. Do they think that the

workers will "not understand" the phrases "propertied classes" and "bureaucratic

Zemstvo based on the social-estates"? Do they think that urging the Zemstvo to

abandon mild speeches and to speak firmly is "overestimating ideology"? Do they

imagine the workers can "gather strength" for the struggle against the autocracy

if they know nothing about the attitude of the autocracy towards the Zemstvo as

well? All this too remains unknown. One thing alone is clear and that is that

the authors of the letter have a very vague idea of what the political tasks of

Social-Democracy are. This is revealed still more clearly by their remark:

"Such, too, is Iskra's attitude towards the student movement" (i.e., it also

"obscures the class antagonisms"). Instead of calling on the workers to declare

by means of public demonstrations that the real breeding-place of unbridled

violence, disorder, and outrage is not the university youth but the Russian

Government (Iskra, No. 2 [19]) we ought probably to have inserted arguments in

the spirit of Rabochaya Mysl! Such ideas were expressed by Social-Democrats in

the autumn of 1901, after the events of February and March, on the eve of a

fresh upsurge of the student movement, which reveals that even in this sphere

the "spontaneous" protest against the autocracy is outstripping the conscious

Social-Democratic leadership of the movement. The spontaneous striving of the

workers to defend the students who are being assaulted by the police and the

Cossacks surpasses the conscious activity of the Social-Democratic organisation!

"And yet in other articles," continue the authors of the letter, "Iskra sharply

condemns all compromise and defends, for instance, the intolerant conduct of the

Guesdists." We would advise those who are wont so conceitedly and frivolously to

declare that the present disagreements among the Social-Democrats are

unessential and do not justify a split, to ponder these words. Is it possible

for people to work together in the same organisation, when some among them

contend that we have done extremely little to explain the hostility of the

autocracy to the various classes and to inform the workers of the opposition

displayed by the various social strata to the autocracy, while others among them

see in this clarification a "compromise" -- evidently a compromise with the

theory of "economic struggle against the employers and the government"?

We urged the necessity of carrying the class struggle into the rural districts

in connection with the fortieth anniversary of the emancipation of the peasantry

(issue No. 3 [20] and spoke of the irreconcilability of the local government

bodies and the autocracy in relation to Witte's secret Memorandum (No. 4). In

connection with the new law we attacked the feudal landlords and the government

which serves them (No. 8 [21]) and we welcomed the illegal Zemstvo congress. We

urged the Zemstvo to pass over from abject petitions (No. 8 [22]) to struggle.

We encouraged the students, who had begun to understand the need for the

political struggle, and to undertake this struggle (No. 3), while, at the same

time, we lashed out at the "outrageous incomprehension" revealed by the

adherents of the "purely student" movement, who called upon the students to

abstain from participating in the street demonstrations (No. 3, in connection

with the manifesto issued by the Executive Committee of the Moscow students on

February 25). We exposed the "senseless dreams" and the "lying hypocrisy" of the

cunning liberals of Rossiya (No. 5), while pointing to the violent fury with

which the government-gaoler persecuted "peaceful writers, aged professors,

scientists, and well-known liberal Zemstvo members" (No. 5, "Police Raid on

Literature"). We exposed the real significance of the programme of "state

protection for the welfare of the workers" and welcomed the "valuable admission"

that "it is better, by granting reforms from above, to forestall the demand for

such reforms from below than to wait for those demands to be put forward" (No. 6

[23]). We encouraged the protesting statisticians (No. 7) and censured the

strike-breaking statisticians (No. 9). He who sees in these tactics an obscuring

of the class-consciousness of the proletariat and a compromise with liberalism

reveals his utter failure to understand the true significance of the programme

of the Credo and carries out that programme de facto, however much he may

repudiate it. For by such an approach he drags Social-Democracy towards the

"economic struggle against the employers and the government" and yields to

liberalism, abandons the task of actively intervening in every "liberal" issue

and of determining his own, Social-Democratic, attitude towards this question.

F. Once More "Slanderers", Once More "Mystifiers"

These polite expressions, as the reader will recall, belong to Rabocheye Dyelo,

which in this way answers our charge that it "is indirectly preparing the ground

for converting the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois

democracy". In its simplicity of heart Rabocheye Dyelo decided that this

accusation was nothing more than a polemical sally: these malicious doctrinaires

are bent on saying all sorts of unpleasant things about us, and, what can be

more unpleasant than being an instrument of bourgeois democracy? And so they

print in bold type a "refutation": "Nothing but downright slander",

"mystification", "mummery" (Two Conferences, pp. 30, 31, 33). Like Jove,

Rabocheye Dyelo (although bearing little resemblance to that deity) is wrathful

because it is wrong, and proves by its hasty abuse that it is incapable of

understanding its opponents' mode of reasoning. And yet, with only a little

reflection it would have understood why any subservience to the spontaneity of

the mass movement and any degrading of Social-Democratic politics to the level

of trade-unionist politics mean preparing the ground for converting the

working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois democracy. The

spontaneous working-class movement is by itself able to create (and inevitably

does create) only trade-unionism, and working-class trade-unionist politics is

precisely working-class bourgeois politics. The fact that the working class

participates in the political struggle, and even in the political revolution,

does not in itself make its politics Social-Democratic politics. Will Rabocheye

Dyelo make bold to deny this? Will it, at long last, publicly, plainly, and

without equivocation explain how it understands the urgent questions of

international and of Russian Social-Democracy? Hardly. It will never do anything

of the kind, because it holds fast to the trick, which might be described as the

"not here" method -- "It's not me, it's not my horse, I'm not the driver. We are

not Economists; Rabochaya Mysl does not stand for E'conomism; there is no

Economism at all in Russia." This is a remarkably adroit and "political" trick,

which suffers from the slight defect, however, that the publications practising

it are usually nicknamed, "At your service, sir".

Rabocheye Dyelo imagines that bourgeois democracy in Russia is, in general,

merely a "phantom" (Two Conferences, p. 32).[24] Happy people! Ostrich-like,

they bury their heads in the sand and imagine that everything around has

disappeared. Liberal publicists who month after month proclaim to the world

their triumph over the collapse and even the disappearance of Marxism; liberal

newspapers (S. Peterburgskiye Vedomosti, Russkiye Vedomosti, and many others)

which encourage the liberals who bring to the workers the Brentano conception of

the class struggle and the trade-unionist conception of politics; the galaxy of

critics of Marxism, whose real tendencies were so very well disclosed by the

Credo and whose literary products alone circulate in Russia without let or

hindrance; the revival of revolutionary non-Social-Democratic tendencies,

particularly after the February and March events -- all these, apparently, are

just phantoms! All these have nothing at all to do with bourgeois democracy!

Rabocheye Dyelo and the authors of the Economist letter published in Iskra, No.

12, should "ponder over the reason why the events of the spring brought about

such a revival of revolutionary non-Social-Democratic tendencies instead of

increasing the authority and the prestige of Social-Democracy".

The reason lies in the fact that we failed to cope with our tasks. The masses of

the workers proved to be more active than we. We lacked adequately trained

revolutionary leaders and organisers possessed of a thorough knowledge of the

mood prevailing among all the opposition strata and able to head the movement,

to turn a spontaneous demonstration into a political one, broaden its political

character, etc. Under such circumstances, our backwardness will inevitably be

utilised by the more mobile and more energetic non-Social-Democratic

revolutionaries, and the workers, however energetically and self-sacrificingly

they may fight the police and the troops, however revolutionary their actions

may be, will prove to be merely a force supporting those revolutionaries, the

rearguard of bourgeois democracy, and not the Social-Democratic vanguard. Let us

take, for example, the German Social-Democrats, whose weak aspects alone our

Economists desire to emulate. Why is there not a single political event in

Germany that does not add to the authority and prestige of Social-Democracy?

Because Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all others in

furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in

championing every protest against tyranny. It does not lull itself with

arguments that the economic struggle brings the workers to realise that they

have no political rights and that the concrete conditions unavoidably impel the

working-class movement on to the path of revolution. It intervenes in every

sphere and in every question of social and political life; in the matter of

Wilhelm's refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressist as city mayor (our

Economists have not yet managed to educate. the Germans to the understanding

that such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter of

the law against "obscene" publications and pictures; in the matter of

governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc. Everywhere the

Social-Democrats are found in the forefront, rousing political discontent among

all classes, rousing the sluggards, stimulating the laggards, and providing a

wealth of material for the development of the political consciousness and the

political activity of the proletariat. As a result, even the avowed enemies of

socialism are filled with respect for this advanced political fighter, and not

infrequently an important document from bourgeois, and even from bureaucratic

and Court circles, makes its way by some miraculous means into the editorial

office of Vorwarts.

This, then, is the resolution of the seeming "contradiction" that surpasses

Rabocheye Dyelo's powers of understanding to such an extent that it can only

throw up its hands and cry, "Mummery!" Indeed, just think of it: We, Rabocheye

Dyelo, regard the mass working-class movement as the corner-stone (and say so in

bold type!); we warn all and sundry against belittling the significance of the

element of spontaneity; we desire to lend the economic struggle itself -- itself

-- a political character; we desire to maintain close and organic contact with

the proletarian struggle. And yet we are told that we are preparing the ground

for the conversion of the working-class movement into an instrument of bourgeois

democracy! And who are they that presume to say this? People who "compromise"

with liberalism by intervening in every "liberal" issue (what a gross

misunderstanding of "organic contact with the proletarian struggle"!), by

devoting so much attention to the students and even (oh horror!) to the

Zemstvos! People who in general wish to devote a greater percentage (compared

with the Economists) of their efforts to activity among non-proletarian classes

of the population! What is this but "mummery"?

Poor Rabocheye Dyelo! Will it ever find the solution to this perplexing puzzle?


[1] To avoid misunderstanding, we must point out that here, and throughout this

pamphlet, by economic struggle, we imply (in keeping with the accepted usage

among us) the "practical economic struggle", which Engels, in the passage quoted

above, described as "resistance to the capitalists", and which in free countries

is known as the organised-labour syndical, or trade union struggle.

[2] In the present chapter we deal only with the political struggle, in its

broader or narrower meaning. Therefore, we note only in passing, merely as a

curiosity, Rabocheye Dyelo's charge that Iskra is "too restrained" in regard to

the economic struggle (Two Conferences, p. 27, rehashed by Martynov in his

pamphlet, Social-Democracy and the Working Class). If the accusers computed by

the hundredweights or reams (as they are so fond of doing) any given year's

discussion of the economic struggle in the industrial section of Iskra, in

comparison with the corresponding sections of Rabocheye Dyelo and Rabochaya Mysl

combined, they would easily see that the latter lag behind even in this respect.

Apparently, the realisation of this simple truth compels them to resort to

arguments that clearly reveal their confusion. "Iskra," they write, "willy-nilly

[!] is compelled [!] to reckon with the imperative demands of life and to

publish at least [!!] correspondence about the working-class movement" (Two

Conferences, p. 27). Now this is really a crushing argument!

[3] We say "in general", because Rabocheye Dyelo speaks of general principles

and of the general tasks of the Party as a whole. Undoubtedly, cases occur in

practice when politics really must follow economics, but only Economists can

speak of this in a resolution intended to apply to the whole of Russia. Cases do

occur when it is possible "right from the beginning" to carry on political

agitation "exclusively on an economic basis"; yet Rabocheye Dyelo came in the

end to the conclusion that "there is no need for this whatever" (Two

Conferences, p. 11). In the following chapter, we shall show that the tactics of

the "politicians" and revolutionaries not only do not ignore the trade union

tasks of Social-Democracy, but that, on the contrary, they alone can secure

their consistent fulfilment.

[4] These are the precise expressions used in Two Conferences, pp. 31, 32, 28

and 80.

[5] Two Conferences, p. 32.

[6] Rabocheye Dyelo, No. 10, p. 60. This is the Martynov variation of the

application, which we have characterised above, of the thesis "every step of

real movement is more important than a dozen programmes" to the present chaotic

state of our movement. In fact, this is merely a translation into Russian of the

notorious Bernsteinian sentence: "The movement is everything, the final aim is


[7] P. 43. "Of course, when we advise the workers to present certain economic

demands to the government, we do so because in the economic sphere the

autocratic government is, of necessity, prepared to make certain concessions!"

[8] See Collected Works, Vol 5, pp. 253-74 --Ed.

[9] Rabochaya MysI, "Separate Supplement", p. 14.

[10] See Collected Works, Vol. 4, pp. 414-19-Ed.

[11] The demand "to lend the economic struggle itself a political character"

most strikingly expresses subservience to spontaneity in the sphere of political

activity. Very often the economic struggle spontaneously assumes a political

character, that is to say, without the intervention of the "revolutionary

bacilli -- the intelligentsia", without the intervention of the class-conscious

Social-Democrats. The economic struggle of the English workers, for instance,

also assumed a political character without any intervention on the part of the

socialists. The task of the Social-Democrats, however, is not exhausted by

political agitation on an economic basis; their task is to convert

trade-unionist politics into Social-Democratic political struggle, to utilise

the sparks of political consciousness which the economic struggle generates

among the workers, for the purpose of raising the workers to the level of

Social-Democratic political consciousness. The Martynovs, however, instead of

raising and stimulating the spontaneously awakening political consciousness of

the workers, bow to spontaneity and repeat over and over ad nauseam, that the

economic struggle "Impels" the workers to realise their own lack of political

rights. It is unfortunate, gentlemen, that the spontaneously awakening

trade-unionist political consciousness does not "impel" you to an understanding

of your Social-Democratic tasks.

[12] To prove that this imaginary speech of a worker to an Economist is based on

fact, we shall refer to two witnesses who undoubtedly have direct knowledge of

the working-class movement and who are least of all inclined to be partial

towards us "doctrinaires"; for one witness is an Economist (who regards even

Rabocheye Dyelo as a political organ!), and the other is a terrorist. The first

witness is the author of a remarkably truthful and vivid article entitled "The

St. Petersburg Working-Class Movement and the Practical Tasks of

Social-Democracy", published in Rabocheye Dyelo No. 6. He divides the workers

into the following categories: (1) class-conscious revolutionaries; (2)

intermediate stratum; (3) the remaining masses. The intermediate stratum, he

says, "is often more interested in questions of political life than in its own

immediate economic interests, the connection between which and the general

social conditions it has long understood" ... Rabochaya Mysl "is sharply

criticised": "It keeps on repeating the same thing over and over again, things

we have long known, read long ago." "Again nothing in the political review!"

(pp. 30-31). But even the third stratum, "the younger and more sensitive section

of the workers, less corrupted by the tavern and the church, who hardly ever

have the opportunity of getting hold of political literature, discuss political

events in a rambling way and ponder over the fragmentary news they get about

student riots", etc. The terrorist writes as follows: They read over once or

twice the petty details of factory life in other towns, not their own, and then

they read no more ... dull, they find it.... To say nothing in a workers' paper

about the government ... is to regard the workers as being little children....

The workers are not little children" (Svoboda, published by the

Revolutionary-Socialist Group,. pp. 69-70).

[13] Martynov "conceives of another, more realistic [?] dilemma"

(Social-Democracy and the Working Class, p. 19): "Either Social-Democracy takes

over the direct leadership of the economic struggle of the proletariat and by

that [!] transforms it into a revolutionary class struggle...." "By that", i.e.,

apparently by the direct leadership of the economic struggle. Can Martynov cite

an instance in which leading the trade-union struggle alone has succeeded in

transforming a trade-unionist movement into a revolutionary class movement? Can

he not understand that in order to bring about this "transformation" we must

actively take up the "direct leadership" of all-sided political agitation?...

"Or the other perspective: Social-Democracy refrains from assuming the

leadership of the economic struggle of the workers and so ... clips its own

wings. .." In In Rabocheye Dyelo's opinion, quoted above, it is Iskra that

"refrains". We have seen, however, that the latter does far more than Rabocheye

Dyelo to lead the economic struggle, but that, moreover, it does not confine

itself thereto and does not narrow down its political tasks for its sake.

[14] The big street demonstrations which began in the spring of 1901. (Author's

note to the 1907 edition --Ed.)

[15] For example, during the Franco-Prussian War, Liebknecht dictated a

programme of action for the whole of democracy; to an even greater extent Marx

and Engels did this in 1848.

[16] See Collected Works, Vol. 5, pp. 21-22 --Ed.

[17] Lack of space has prevented us from replying in detail, in Iskra, to this

letter, which is highly characteristic of the Economists. We were very glad at

its appearance, for the allegations that Iskra did not maintain a consistent

class point of view had reached us long before that from various sources, and we

were waiting for an appropriate occasion, or for a formulated expression of this

fashionable charge, to give our reply. Moreover, it is our habit to reply to

attacks, not by defence, but by counter-attack.

[18] "In the interval between these articles there was one (Iskra, No. 3), which

dealt especially with class antagonisms in the countryside. (See Collected

Works, Vol. 4, pp. 420-28 --Ed.)

[19] See Collected Works, Vol. 4, pp. 414-19 --Ed.

[20] Ibid., pp. 420-28 --Ed.

[21] Ibid., Vol. 5, pp. 95-100 --Ed.

[22] Ibid., pp. 101-02 --Ed.

[23] See Collected Works, Vol. 5, pp. 87-88 --Ed.

[24] There follows a reference to the "concrete Russian conditions which

fatalistically impel the working-class movement on to the revolutionary path".

But these people refuse to understand that the revolutionary path of the

working-class movement might not be a Social-Democratic path. When absolutism

reigned, the entire West-European bourgeoisie "impelled", deliberately impelled,

the workers on to the path of revolution. We Social-Democrats, however, cannot

be satisfied with that. And if we, by any means whatever, degrade

Social-Democratic politics to the level of spontaneous trade-unionist politics,

we thereby play into the hands of bourgeois democracy.